Travel

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

I’m very, very near full term now, and one of the things I’m looking forward to after giving birth is traveling again. I pretty much stopped traveling once I reached my third trimester, and I’ve been an insufferable whiner about it. I have major cabin fever/wanderlust! I decided to reminisce the other day about some of my favorite holidays with Mr. Feather, and amongst all the great memories I was also reminded of some of the many mistakes I’ve made while traveling. Here I’d like to share some of mine….I’d love to hear yours!

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Not reading the guidebook – especially under the part labeled “scams”. 

I know it’s super “newbie tourist” to buy guidebooks and actually refer to them in public while traveling…but hey, usually when I go somewhere new – it’s as a tourist! I actually love guidebooks and will usually purchase one before a new destination. They’re relatively cheap, and fun reading on a plane. That is…when I actually read them. The first (and only) time we ever went to Thailand, I brought a nice big fat Lonely Planet edition along. Which unfortunately, I never got around to reading. Which resulted in me not being aware of several massive scams to avoid that Thailand is infamous for.

I ended up falling victim to one of the biggest ones out there-  the infamous Gem Scam (curse my weakness for jewelry!). Luckily I didn’t end up buying anything, and Mr. Feather and I actually enjoyed our free Tuk Tuk ride around the city and our conversations with “strangers” about all the great jewelry deals out there. The level of organization and deception was actually quite impressive. But it could have gone a lot worse…and if we’d only taken the time to read basic warnings, we could have saved quite a few hours on one of our precious days in Bangkok!

Sydney-Opera-House-Bridge-View-Night1

Not packing at least one “nicer” outfit.

I am a bit crazy about packing and before each trip always try to maximize the number of outfits I’ll get out of the items I’m bringing, so that I can travel as lightly as possible. That usually means items like heels, and fancy dresses, are first to go. But I’ve learned over time that it’s always good to have a least the components of a “nicer” outfit – one you can go out to a nice bar in, or have a formal dinner. When we were in Sydney, some local friends invited us to dinner at Quay – a fancy schmancy restaurant overlooking the waterfront, probably the highest end in Sydney. While looking at the menu, I realized that I really had packed no shoes or clothes that were appropriate to dine in there. I was pretty sure that I could still get away with the best items I had (one of the advantages of being female), but I knew I would be uncomfortable.

The same thing also happened to me in Hong Kong some years ago…I was there briefly for work, and got invited to go out to a very nice event. I had packed absolutely nothing, so ended up in a Vince sweater and skinny jeans and flats, while everyone else was dolled up and gorgeous. It was a missed opportunity to have fun getting dressed up!

Nowadays, I’ll take a look at the footwear I’ve packed, and try to include at least one nicer top, or a pretty dress. These pieces don’t take up lots of space and give a lot more flexibility for events/places you can go. Who doesn’t want to go out on the town in a new cool place?

Shopping-Around

Taking poor care of myself and getting sick…right before a trip. 

I’m a proud germaphobe, but for some reason, I always think I’m impervious to actually getting sick. Honestly I don’t know why I’m so confident in my immune system, since I don’t ever exercise. Anyway – on our very first Japan trip, I found myself sick as a dog right before. I thought I’d recover on the plane, but of course the journey just made it worse. It’s absolutely miserable to be sick on a plane. The air is super dry, you’re never as comfortable as in your own bed, and the tissues are murder on your nose. As a result, I ended up getting even sicker, and thus spent out first few days in Japan recovering in the hotel room. What an absolute waste, and plus I couldn’t even taste all the delicious food (though ramen is pretty great when you have a cold).

When we went back to Japan earlier this year, I learned my lesson and was an absolute anti germ/sickness vigilante right before! I made sure to avoid all sick, sneezy people and ate well and took care of myself. That way, I had lots of energy and was in good health when we arrived back in Japan!

Those are my biggest mistakes (that I can recall) when traveling…what are yours? Let’s all learn from each other!

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  • Whitney Farris
    July 21, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Hands down, not utilizing concierge services especially when traveling in Paris! Big, BIG mistake!!!!
    Since then I have learned!!!!!

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Interesting!! Which restaurants/experiences were they for?

      • Whitney Farris
        July 23, 2015 at 7:29 am

        One huge thing in particular. It was Christmas time and we wanted to take our daughter to see the Nutcraker at L’Opera. We were staying at L’Meriden Montparnasse. My ex-husband just knew he could get those tickets! Well he didn’t, but when we talked to concierge they could have gotten them. Unfortunately, we had things planned in the following days and she did not get to see the Nutrcaker in Paris. She did get to see it in the states though, but the Nutcracker in Paris……..beyond!

        • Katherine
          July 24, 2015 at 12:22 pm

          Ah I understand. Still time to go back to see it again in Paris though. That would be wonderful 🙂

  • Deepti @ Endless Postcards
    July 21, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Reading about the Thai green gem scam is so interesting! In Morocco, they have something similar with their famous rugs. Glad that you guys didn’t end up buying anything!

    Getting sick right before vacation is the WORST!! It feels like such wasted money and opportunity sitting in the hotel room, I absolutely hate it. I become a germaphobe as well right before a trip!

    So exciting that soon you’ll have a whole new person to travel with! 🙂 congratulations!!

    Endless Postcards

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Good to know about Morocco – I had no idea!! I really want a rug too so can totally see myself falling for it. lol.

  • Justine
    July 21, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    A travel tip is to never shop at tourist boutiques, especially for souvenirs and food items you’ll be gifting. Visit a local grocery or supermarket instead! It’s such fun browsing alongside locals, seeing what locals buy, and even getting some recommendations! Many times you come back with fun and very delicious items you never would’ve found at a souvenir gift shop!

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      That’s a great tip about the supermarkets….I’ve heard that tip before, for Hawaii, but it must be interesting universally. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anna
    July 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Watch out for timeshare presentations. We ended up going to one in Mexico (I didn’t want to but DH wanted the freebies…), and it wasn’t a scam because they delivered on their promises, but it was a waste of a perfectly good day in Playa…

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      I’ve heard this before. I think it must be so tempting – I’d a lot of things for a free massage!

  • DSK Steph
    July 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Great tips! I’ve always been a homebody, but I definitely want to break out of my shell and get out there to explore and see the world. 😀

  • Jane
    July 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Underestimating the weather is another common mistake. I have traveled to NYC with only cashmere sweaters when the weather suddenly spiked up to 80 on the last day of our trip. Las Vegas is another tricky weather city. The weather could vary by 20-30 degrees between night and day. After making a few travel weather mistakes, I now always pack a camisole, which can be used to layer for warmth if the weather turns cold or wear alone when a heat wave hits.

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Ah GREAT tip. I have totally underestimated weather before, and been FREEZING. And sometimes I don’t want to buy outerwear just for the sake of it…its such a waste!

  • Revanche
    July 21, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I was just wondering how you were doing in these last days when you’re most restricted. I wish you the very best delivery when the time comes. <3

    I've made some of the same mistakes: I wasn't super careful around germy people on a couple trips and spent my time in beautiful Maui and Oahu sicker than I'd ever been before. What a waste!

    Totally forgot to get currency ahead of time in Europe and wasted time and money hunting down my bank to withdraw cash.

    Packing entirely for one kind of weather in Europe and not a more flexible wardrobe (granted, I was pregnant and didn't have much that fit anymore). I was super uncomfortable!

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you for thinking of me!! Yes, hunting down your bank to save on ATM fees while abroad – another mistake I’ve made, but its sooo painful just to pay the “regular” ATM fees, especially when you know you could have avoided them with some planning.

      • Elizabeth
        July 23, 2015 at 11:38 pm

        This is where Schwab is the greatest ever. No foreign transaction fees, and they actually refund any ATM fees you incur at other banks – so you never, ever have to hunt down a particular ATM – overseas OR at home. I use my Schwab card exclusively for cash withdrawals overseas.

        • Revanche
          July 27, 2015 at 6:53 pm

          Now that’s fantastic. I’ve been looking for a good card for overseas travel and I used to have Schwab cards – I didn’t know they still issued CCs.

  • bisbee
    July 22, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I am not a big traveler, but one of my biggest mistakes that has happened multiple times is not taking disinfecting wipes with me on the plane! I’ve learned my lesson after getting sick from flying…only once during the vacation, usually when I get home. Since I’ve learned to wipe down the tray and arm rests on the plane (and I take them in the bathroom to wipe surfaces I can’t avoid touching) I’ve been successful in avoiding those germs!

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      I HOARD those wipes and bring huge stacks with me when we travel too. Great tip!

  • tata
    July 22, 2015 at 9:41 am

    time share traps. no matter what they promise, never ever go to one. nothing is ever free and your TIME during vacation is certainly not worth a few extra freebies.

    • Katherine
      July 22, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Great point about your time not being worth it. I could definitely see myself falling for a time share presentation trap!

  • Danielle H.
    July 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    I was referred to your blog by a college friend and have been enjoying reading your posts since then, I’m glad I listened to her! Anyways, from your Nordstrom sale picks, I purchased the barefoot drape sweater and was so delighted of the fit and quality when I received it today! After reading your most recent post, I also ended up ordering the Loft racerback midi dress you just linked today, although not at the 70% off price but I guess that’s okay! Sometimes you can’t win everything, right? Lastly, also ordered the kimono lounging robe for the summer and I can’t wait to try it on!

    Hope your days are easy with your delivery just around the corner! Looking forward to hear from you!

    ~Danielle

    • Katherine
      July 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks so much, I hope that you enjoy everything! Luckily at least they all have good return policies. I love my Barefoot Dreams and wear it allllllll the time 🙂

  • Kitty
    July 23, 2015 at 2:23 am

    Sorry to hear about the gem scam in Thailand! (Me being Thai :)) sucks that they prey on tourists.

    Now that I have kids I have a few rules to traveling. Always have a nice hotel room in case a kid gets sick. You’ll only see the inside of that room. Or book a nice airbnb with a washer AND dryer. Once you have a peeing, pooping, sick baby – you’ll know why :). It’s tougher and requires a lot more packing with children but it’s so worth it. You just need to be relaxed and have no agenda and everyone will be fine.

    • Katherine
      July 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Fabulous advice and I will be keeping your comments about the washer/dryer in mind. Thank you!

  • Chami
    July 23, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Hi Katherine,
    Hi from Bangkok! I really love reading your travel posts and I’m so sorry to hear about your gem scam in Bangkok! Being a Bangkok resident, it’s horribly embarrassing hearing about these things. I saw a segment about this gem scam on a TV travel documentary once and was amazed at how incredibly elaborate it was, with so many levels of scammers involved – fake guides, tuk tuk drivers, jewelry shops, etc. There were even more scams, like the “Thai girlfriend scam”. (You don’t – want to know about this one but you can imagine how many men must fall for it). I guess the basic advice for all tourists going to the most popular temples is this – Don’t Believe It when a smiling friendly guy approaches and tells you the temple is closed for a public holiday and they can take you to a nice jewelry shop with special discounts instead! 🙁
    Now that you are an armchair traveler for a while, maybe you would like to take a little vicarious trip to a luxury tented camp in India – you might like to check out my new blog post about my experience at Ranthambore, a former maharajah’s private tiger preserve in Rajasthan – https://barefootluxe.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/glamping-maharajah-style-at-ranthambore-tiger-preserve-india/
    It was such a wonderful place!
    Best wishes,
    Chami

    • Katherine
      July 24, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Girlfriend scam….I can extrapolate what that means 🙂 Your trip to India looked fabulous.

  • Elizabeth
    July 24, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Katherine, so happy you are feeling good in your last few weeks! You’ll be racking up miles again soon!

    My other big travel tips to avoid mistakes/bad experiences, mostly on practical stuff and what not to forget – a bit long, sorry:

    Get the temporary international data plan on your cellphone. Even if you get the minimum package (ATT iPhone is $30), you can always up it via your carrier’s app if needed. This way you can access maps, change flights, check out things to do, even research if something is a scam right on the spot. I also recommend getting a text message package unless you can rely on WhatsApp/WeChat/etc.

    Related: Get Skype and put in at least $10 of “Skype Out” phone credits. This way you can place a cheap call anywhere you have a decent connection. I travel enough to have an international calling plan permanently in place, but Skype is still cheaper.

    Photocopy your passport and keep the copy very separate from the passport.

    Always bring a swimsuit. You just never know. Even cold places have indoor pools/polar bear challenges!

    As you’ve said, always bring something you can wear to a really nice event. Cocktail dresses take very little room. Assume something fabulous will happen! If you can squeeze in heels do but if not at least ensure you have flats that work with your outfit.

    Invest in a pack-down winter coat and when space-challenged take it ANYWHERE that may turn cold. Mine is from Mountain Hardwear, packs down to the size of an iPhone, doesn’t look bad, and weighs five ounces. Patagonia, North Face, and Marmot among others also make options in this line. In a situation where I KNOW it’ll be cold I will bring a nicer puffer or warm coat but the tiny parka covers even minimal risk. I also have a Patagonia rain shell that weights three ounces.These are priceless if there is even the slightest chance you may hike or explore outdoors.

    The swimsuit, dress, parka, and rainshell all together will take up less room in a bag than one pair of jeans and at that point you could be diverted almost anywhere on the planet and still be reasonably ok.

    Sanitizing wipes and lipospheric Vitamin C will help stave off funky germs/colds. If you have a vitamin regime, stick to it. I carry premixed Ziploc bags of collagen/spirulina/protein powder/acai/maca to put in smoothies and juices just like I do at home.

    Speaking of which, bring extra Ziplocs. They take no room and can solve: wet or dirty clothes/swimwear; exploded/messy cosmetics/souvenirs/anything else you want to keep separate from your other packed items.

    (This is more for adventure or wilderness travel: If traveling anywhere where electricity is patchy, risky, or nonexistent, bring an LED headlamp (preferable) or flashlight. If water is scarce bring face and body wipes (I like Ole Henriksen and Herban Essentials).)

    If you will have down time (like on a work trip) get the contact info of a friend of a friend. There is always someone who will be up to hanging out with a 1-2 degree of separation stranger in town and you’ll probably see a side of the place you’d never otherwise know. I have made lifelong friends through these intros.

    Finally…if you are a US citizen, get Global Entry. It will change your life coming home (skip immigration lines) and it also gets you TSA Precheck domestically.

    • Katherine
      July 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      You have fabulous tips – one can totally see what a world traveler you are. I love the advice especially about the pack down jacket which I 100% agree with – way lighter than packing a ton of various layers which you may not need. Global Entry is worth its weight in gold too.